Five benefits to having a mentor

This piece stems from my series on Life Lessons, but diverges to talk about mentoring, and some of the reasons I sought out a mentor. The value, for me, might be a little different to you; and that’s okay. But, hopefully, I will have conveyed some interesting reasons you may seek out your own mentor. Or be a mentor, even. So, here’s five mentoring benefits for me.

“A good mentor can save you 10 years of learning on your own.” ― Bianca Board.

Learning from their mistakes

When we are new to the field or industry, it can be hard to find our feet. Working out where to go next can be hard. This is especially true for me, when the possible life directions are endless. People with experience in the industry we work in, can offer insight. They have been right where we were. The perspectives they can offer are invaluable.

We all make mistakes, and that is true for the mentor. The benefit we have, is that we can learn from other people’s mistakes. Warren Buffett, in what he calls a “monumentally stupid decision”, bought Berkshire. The then troubled company is the fourth largest public company globally. It is pretty hard for me to think of that as a mistake, but from Buffett’s opinion, it was, and retrospect is a powerful thing. If I were in a room with him today, I’d be asking why it was a terrible mistake, and what he would do differently.

“Learn all you can from the mistakes of others. You won’t have time to make them all yourself.” ― Alfred Sheinwold.

Could you imagine asking the people at the twelve publishing house that rejected JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter manuscript? The CEO of Bloomsbury Publishing gave his daughter a chapter from the text, and she returned nagging him for what came next. Perhaps, we would never have seen the series if not for the young girl.

To hear stories like these from mentors enables us to not make the same mistakes. If I were publishing a book, I’d love advice from JK, investing in shares, I’d definitely want to hear from Buffett. But there are many of people closer to home that can provide similar insights. Seek them out, so you can be coached through your challenges. A mentor coaching us through our mistakes, and sharing theirs, helps us to learn.

“Successful people use failures to sharpen their intuition by acknowledging mistakes for what they truly are – feedback.” ― Gordana Biernat.

Networking

Ever heard the maxim “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Probably. The real matter of fact thing is that it is largely true. We rely on strong and productive relationships with others. Whilst having knowledge and intelligence is important, there will always be things that we do not know we do not know. That requires help from others to get us there. And that is where mentors, particularly business mentors, can help. They have been around, in different circles to us.

“Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for.” ― Christine Comaford-Lynch.

New circles mean new opportunities, and good mentors are usually willing to introduce you to new people. Walking into a cocktail party and knowing no one can be daunting, especially for the shier of us, or even the introvert. I was recently at a high profile business networking event, and saw an informal mentor of mine. They proceeded to introduce me to a couple of people at their table, that I would not have otherwise known.

Career mentoring and progression

In addition to the ability to help with introductions, and new job opportunities, a mentor can also help bump us up the food chain a little. No matter the stage of our careers, a mentor can help us cultivate new and existing skills. Someone I consider a mentor actually did just this.

I got an email, early in the morning asking if I was interested in a contract task. Of course, I said yes, and the opportunities for me to develop were huge. I learnt about managing people who were twice (if not more) of my age, and working between some of the tightest deadlines I have ever had. But it came with perks too. I met a lot of key decision makers in my workplace, and I was far better prepared to take on consultant-like roles into the future.

“We must desire to see people rising in life, rather than looking for ways to contribute to their fall.”
Bamigboye Olurotimi.

It was new, and useful, and without that person letting me know of the job, I would never have gotten it. The challenge with trying to grow and move up the corporate ladder is not knowing where the next rung is, or how to get there. Sometimes it takes a side step to a new firm, that we had no idea about before someone said something.

Not all jobs are advertised for, and many rely on contacts to fill. Having a mentor can enable our names to be thrown into the ring. Having a leadership mentor, or joining a mentor program can support us in building our capabilities, so that our name stays in the ring.

Accountability

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”
Thomas Paine.

Being accountable is sometimes all we need to succeed. Remember those moments when no one was home, so we ate trash food, or even food that is barely consumable? Or that time we snoozed our alarm clock for a couple of extra hours because life can wait? I bet you did not choose to snooze the alarm when someone was expecting you out for breakfast in half an hour, right? There is a logical reason for that one. You felt accountable.

Having someone to meet with on a regular basis can be beneficial for keeping us in check. Making sure we are not choosing to ‘slack off’ or procrastinate those important tasks. They can ask the hard questions, when we need it, and keep us on our toes.

Whether we set goals with mentors, or set our own, communicating them to someone adds a level of responsibility. It’s the drive to not having to go back to them and apologise for failing because the eleventh hour of sleep was calling. It’s that moment of satisfaction when you can proudly say, “I’ve done it”.

Mentor feedback

I save my favourite for last. Getting feedback is the most crucial benefit of having a mentor. It is also a really key part to being a better and more effective person. We often fail to realise we do something bad, and it can be help to be shown a different way forward. But, more often, we fail to recognise what we do well. Getting the compliment for a job well done is pretty great too!

“People who succeed in business aren’t afraid to hear feedback from their customers, they actually thrive from it.” ― Adam Kirk Smith.

Actively asking for feedback on something we’re unsure of can give us confidence, or room to improve. We sometimes cannot see our own flaws, and similar too with our strengths. Sometimes, we need advice. It helps when there is someone who can sincerely and honestly point them out. It also helps when they are willing to help develop strategies to overcome the weaknesses, and capitalise on the strengths.

Be a mentee now, and a mentor later.